Volume 4, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN 2406-419x
  • E-ISSN: 2406-4246


This paper presents a linguistic analysis of episode boundaries in narratives produced from a 24-page picture book by German and English speakers. We investigate the development of form/function relationships involved in the discursive organization of narratives, attempting to bring together research traditions that typically consider the linguistic structuring and the conceptualization of narratives as two separate domains. Focussing in our analysis on the linguistic realization of discourse boundaries, we integrate a qualitative and quantitative approach to the exploration of (1) the relationship between the existence and commonality (“availability”) of particular markers (e.g., aspect) in a given language and the structure that narratives take, and (2) the developmental patterns in the use of several formal devices for serving discourse (i.e., narrative) functions. Episode boundaries were identified with an “importance” judgment task. These ratings were used guiding the analyses of the narrative productions of 72 subjects in three age groups (5 and 9 years, and adults) and two languages (English and German). The findings suggest that, in general, event boundaries ranking higher in the episode hierarchy are more clearly marked than events that are seen to be less important. Further, comparing the English and German narratives, the availability of devices in a language can influence the explicitness with which episode boundaries are marked. Lastly, developmental analyses suggest that children in both language groups first mark episode boundaries in the service of highlighting and intensifying locally-defined discourse level units. The use of these markers evolves toward packaging larger discourse units, resulting in a global structuring of the episodic configuration of the narrative whole. These cross-linguistic and developmental patterns suggest that marking episode boundaries involves a complex interplay between two kinds of narrative orientations: (a) the horizontal alignment of linearly-ordered narrative events, and (b) the vertical organization of events along a hierarchical axis of narrative structure.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Bamberg, M
    (1987) The acquistion of narratives. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110854190
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110854190 [Google Scholar]
  2. . (In press) Narrative as perspective taking: The role of emotionals, negations, and voice in the construction of the story realm. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Bamberg, M. , Budwig, N. & Kaplan, B
    . (in press) A developmental approach to language acquisition: Two case studies. First Language,10.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Bolinger, D
    (1979) Pronouns in discourse. In T. Givon (ed.), Syntax and semantics, vol. 12: Discourse and syntax. New York: Academic Press, 289-309.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Brown, G. & Yule, G
    (1983) Discourse analysis. Cambridge: University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511805226
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511805226 [Google Scholar]
  6. Chvany, C
    (1985) Backgrounded perfectives and plot line imperfectives. In M. S. Flier & A. Timberlake (eds), The scope of Slavic aspect.Columbus: Slavica, 247-73.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. French, L
    (1986) The language of events. In K. Nelson (ed.), Event knowledge. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 119-36
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Gumperz, J
    (1982) Discourse strategies. Cambridge: University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511611834
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511611834 [Google Scholar]
  9. Halliday, M. & Hasan, R
    (1976) Cohesion in English. London: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Hinds, J
    (1977) Paragraph structure and pronominalization. Papers in Linguistics, 10, 77-99. doi: 10.1080/08351819709370440
    https://doi.org/10.1080/08351819709370440 [Google Scholar]
  11. (1979) Organizational patterns in discourse. In T. Givon (ed.), Syntax and Semantics, vol. 12: Discourse and syntax. New York: Academic Press, 135-57.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Hopper, P
    (1979) Aspect and foregrounding in discourse. In T. Givon (ed.), Syntax and semantics, vol. 12: Discourse and syntax. New York: Academic Press, 213-41.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. (1982) Aspect before discourse and grammar. In P.J. Hopper (ed.), Tense-aspect: Between semantics and pragmatics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 3-18. doi: 10.1075/tsl.1.04hop
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.1.04hop [Google Scholar]
  14. Hopper, P. & Thompson, S
    (1980) Transitivity in grammar and discourse. Language, 56, 251-99. doi: 10.1353/lan.1980.0017
    https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.1980.0017 [Google Scholar]
  15. Joos, M
    (1964) The English verb. Form and meanings. Madison: University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Labov, W
    (1984) Intensity. In D. Schiffrin (ed.), Meaning, form, and use in context: Linguistic applications, (Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics). Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 43-70.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Labov, W. & Waletzky, J
    (1967) Narrative analysis: Oral versions of personal experience. In J. Helm (ed.), Essays on the verbal arts. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 12-44.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Lehnert, W. & Ringle, M. H
    (1982) Strategies for natural language processing. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Mandler, J
    (1978) A code in the node: The use of a story schema in retrieval. Discourse Processes, 1, 14-35. doi: 10.1080/01638537809544426
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01638537809544426 [Google Scholar]
  20. (1983) Representation. In P. Mussen , John H. Flavell and Ellen M. Markman (eds), Cognitive development, vol. III, Handbook of child psychology. New York: Wiley, 420-94.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. (1984) Stories, scripts, and scenes: Aspects of schema theory. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Rumelhart, D
    (1975) Notes on a schema for stories. In D.G. Bobrow & A. Collins (eds), Representation and understanding: Studies in cognitive science. New York: Academic Press, 221-36.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. (1977) Understanding and summarizing brief stories. In D. L. Berse & S. J. Samuels (eds), Basic processes in reading: Perception and comprehension. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 265-303.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Slobin, D
    (1986) The development from child speaker to native speaker. Paper presented atthe First Annual Chicago symposium on Culture and Human Development, October 23-25.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. (1987) Thinking for speaking. Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, February.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Stein, N. L. & Glenn, C. G
    (1982) Children's concept of time: The development of a story schema. In W. J. Friedman (ed.), The developmental psychology of time. New York: Academic Press, 255-82.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Stein, N. L. & Policastro, M
    (1984) The concept of a story: A comparison between children's and teacher's viewpoints. In H. Mandl , N. L. Stein & T. Trabasso (eds), Learning and comprehension of text. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 113-55.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Tomlin, R. S
    (1983) On the interaction of syntactic subject, thematic information, and agent in English. Journal of Pragmatics, 7, 411-32. doi: 10.1016/0378‑2166(83)90026‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(83)90026-7 [Google Scholar]
  29. (1984) The treatment of foreground-background information in the on-line descriptive discourse of second language learners. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 6:2, 115-42. doi: 10.1017/S0272263100004988
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263100004988 [Google Scholar]
  30. Trabasso, T. , Secco, T. & Van Den Broek, P
    (1984) Causal cohesion and story coherence. In H. Mandl , N. L. Stein & T. Trabasso (eds), Learning and comprehension of text. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 83-111.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Weinrich, H
    (1964) Tempus: Besprochene and erzählte Welt. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Werner, H
    (1957) The concept of development from a comparative and organismic point of view. In D.B. Harris (ed.), The concept of development: An issue in the study of human behavior. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Werner, H. & Kaplan, B
    (1963/84) Symbol formation. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error